Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Why join Toastmasters?

Are you familiar with Toastmasters? If not, I highly recommend that you check it out with an eye toward joining a club ( TM is an international speakers' club; everyone involved joins to improve their speaking skills, though their reasons for doing so may vary. Both of my parents were Toastmasters; my father used his TM skills in work on a daily basis, and he swore by it.

Here is my take on TM as an employer and consultant to employers, as well as a professional speaker who used to really, really stink at giving even just a 5-minute speech:

"Why participate in Toastmasters?"

1. Self-confidence. Mastering an audience's emotions and interest during a speech will leave you feeling like superman for a couple of weeks. Those will be very productive weeks at work. Your boss, clients, and prospects will all notice the difference, and they will like what they see.

2. Resume. I tell every employer I work with to strongly encourage TM participation among their up-and-coming leaders. Nothing will develop you professionally like being an accomplished public speaker. Employers nationwide - actually, worldwide - agree with me when hiring and promoting. So I didn't make this up.

3. Getting rich, living like a rock star. There's always the chance you can turn your TM experience, coupled with your professional knowledge, into paid speaking gigs, TV appearances... Let me tell you from experience, from the first time you get paid two month's salary for giving a one-hour talk, your life will never be the same. Staying in four- and five-star hotels, having 60-year old CEOs ask you for advice... it's addictive.

I started TM when I was 37 or 38, and it's transformed my career. If I had known the benefits, I would have joined a club while still in college.

3 Local "Dropout Factories"


Here is my take on education in Greater Naples, and actually in every town, city, county, and state in the country: if we are not actively, vibrantly competing to be among the nation's top ten school districts, and top three states, in education, then we need to reevaluate our priorities and our leadership.

Doing okay isn't okay, it's a failure of our commitment to our children. Doing well isn't nearly good enough. Either we're vying for #1 or we're not. And if we aren't, why aren't we?

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Leader's Job

The #1 job of a leader is to develop leaders.

Jack Welch is arguably the most important business leader of the 20th - and early 21st - Century. In his twenty-year tenure at the helm of GE, he mentored and developed 550 leaders, many of whom went on to run other highly successful multinational corporations.

A leader is only as good as the leaders he develops. How good are the leaders who report to you, or who have moved on to lead another department or company or organization?

Jack and Suzy Welch's Winning is one of my all-time favorite books; I liked it so much that, with his permission, I quote Mr. Welch twice for chapter headings of my own book, Five-Star Customer Service.

To buy Winning through, click here:

Use the link above, and Amazon will donate up to 8% of your purchase price to Thanks!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

If you read just one book this month...

If you have ever worked with others or if you know a person who has, you owe it to yourself to read Robert Cialindi's "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion."

To buy it on, click here:

I can't say it enough: We are all teachers. We are all in sales. We are all in customer service. So read this book. It will help you at work, as a volunteer, and at play.

Use the link above, and Amazon will donate up to 8% of your purchase price to We could use the help!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

On Character

"Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without strategy." - General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

Personally, I am of the "Great Man" (and Woman) theory of leadership - that history is a chronicle of the acts of individuals. Not everyone believes that - there are those who claim that outcomes would happen regardless of who is at the helm. I think that's an interesting view, but my observations lead me to disagree.

So if leaders are so important, let me argue that it is vitally important for us to develop leaders of character. We shouldn't just strive to create good leaders; we must work tirelessly to create and support leaders who are Good.

Because you read my blog, you're getting this several weeks before our press release: some world-class leaders and I are forming a think tank dedicated to developing leaders who will advance social justice in all fields of endeavor, wherever they lead others. Introducing The Naples Institute. I'll flesh it out more in future blog entries.

Back to Schwarzkopf's comment on character.

If you strip down every last aspect of who you are, like peeling layers off an onion, what will you finally be left with? I am a businessman, but that is a surface trait; when I'm at the beach with my girls I'm not playing businessman, but I am still "me." I am a charity organizer, but again that is not who I am, distilled to its essence: that's more an outward manifestation of who I am. I am an author - but I'm still Ted even if I never write again. I'm a resident of Naples; where you live colors your experiences, but it likely doesn't define you as a person.

Residence, race, education, resume, marital status.... all layers that can be peeled away. Ultimately, who are you underneath it all?

If you're really like an onion, then there will be nothing there at the end - you have no core, nothing solid that in the end truly is the essence of You. That is lack of character, and I pity you. The character Kurtz in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness was such a leader: he was phenomenally charismatic, and he led like few people can. Yet he stood for absolutely nothing, which led to his demise.

What is left within you after all of your outer traits are stripped away? Are you an empty onion, or is there a kernel of bare essence there? What I hope you will find is that deep down inside, after everything else is removed, your answer is that you are a Good person. Chances are if you're reading this blog, then you've found me through your interest in customer service or philanthropy. It's rare to find someone with those interests who is not Good. Thankfully, then, I'm preaching to the choir.

Still, I've found that even Good people today need permission to be Good. I can't tell you the number of business leaders I've met who want to do the right thing - if it's expedient, if "all things are equal" (which they never are); if it doesn't harm the bottom line.

The Naples Institute will give that permission. It is my personal belief that doing the right thing - in business, politics, interpersonal relationships, recreation; at all times - is beneficial to a person and an organization. And not just to one's spiritual sense; I mean that Good actions are rewarded tangibly. Executives at Johnson & Johnson coined the term Enlightened Self-Interest way back in the 1950's, and it's a powerfully compelling axiom. Doing Good is good for you. Your business grows. Your children love you better and obey you more readily. You attract more praise, more positive attention. People cut you breaks when things go badly. For completely selfish reasons, do the right thing. It pays handsome dividends.

Now, here's why we want our leaders to see themselves as fundamentally Good.

Our self-image determines our actions. People who see themselves as devoted parents will lay down their lives if necessary to protect their children. People who see themselves as loyal followers will sometimes do morally questionable acts in service to their leader. Those who see themselves as unredeemed can be relied on to stand for nothing; their own self-loathing will lead them to destructive, and self-destructive, acts again and again.

We want a judge who sees herself as Just, because we know she will guide our trial objectively even if the outcomes goes against her personal preference. We want a boss who sees himself as Supportive because our career is in his hands. We want our teachers and coaches to see themselves as Devoted to our success; their own self-definition will dictate that they do their jobs well.

When a person sees herself as morally Good, that will guide all of her decisions. We humans crave meaning in our lives, and our internal narrative has to make sense to us, or it will nag at us until we get back in alignment with it, or until it drives us to ruin.

The Naples Institute will turn out highly effective leaders - good leaders - who are Good people. We will be able to rely on these people to do the right things. That will benefit us all.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Welcome to my new blog!

For those few of you who’ve been with me for a while, that phrase is nothing new. This is actually blog #6 for me, though to be fair to myself a couple of the previous ones have died off, replaced by newer iterations of themselves. You see, I love to build things, but destroying and rebuilding is part of the creative process. You don’t get innovation without continual tinkering.

Basically, these previous blogs of mine have two themes: business (most notably customer service), and philanthropy. I’ve kept the two separate, thinking that my business audience wants to learn how to run their companies more successfully and doesn't want any touchy-feely claptrap, while my philanthropic audience wants to save the world, and doesn’t care about business (much as I’d argue both opinions are naïve).

Maybe that was right, and you’d like these worlds to stay distinct. Please email me to share your thoughts (

Meanwhile, I’ve decided to combine everything I have to say into one venue because, well, I’ve been feeling rather schizophrenic with my interests divided this way. Also, both my business and nonprofit endeavors are expanding dramatically in scope, as you’ll soon read. I don't want to start another blog or two for those topics, so... time to consolidate.

If you’d like to check out a couple of my older blogs, here you go: (philanthropy) (customer service) (customer service)

Hope to see you back here soon! I’ve got some very exciting projects I’m working on – stuff that makes everything I’ve done in the past 40 years seem like a warm-up. But I guess that's what experience is, isn't it? Practice for your next time at bat.